Thinking About...Snow Days

It begins when you first see that little snowflake icon show up in the long-range forecast of your weather app. For the first few days that icon dances about—gone one day, there the next—teasing you as only a frozen fractal can. But then it’s there. It sticks. And the only remaining question is how much? Will it be the typical Richmond winter storm of mixed precipitation—more bark than bite? Or will the storm track yield substantial snow accumulation, dangerous roads, and the much longed-for snow day?

With the winter storm in Richmond a couple weeks ago we were all reminded of the simple joys of a snow day. The city woke up on Saturday morning to several inches of snow on the ground, more snow falling, and this winter’s first Snow Day. We went back to bed. We stayed in our pajamas. We lit fires in fireplaces. Only as the snow tapered, did we begin to venture out—to shovel sidewalks, to uncover cars, to compose Instagram posts. 

Although my usual response to Richmond snow is a New England-bred posture of superiority born of deep-seated snow righteousness, this time I tried to enjoy the snow. I even cancelled something! (Not our worship service, though, I’ll have you know, with only a vestige of a Vermonter’s pride). I stopped, I exhaled, I thought about why we love snow days so much.

Why We Love Snow Days

On a snow day, everything in life is put on hold. Events are postponed or canceled. We don’t have to go to work. Or school. Or our extracurricular events like sports, or music, or volunteering. Snow days provide a welcome break from the usual humming routine of our lives. The schedule, the rush, the busy—they disappear under a bedspread of white. Suddenly our lives are ruled by a reality powerful to interrupt our autonomy, if only for a day or to. 

With the rest of life put on hold, we get to enjoy some of the things in life we treasure. We spend unstructured time with family and/or friends. We watch movies and bake cookies and do puzzles. We go sledding and collaborate with strangers-now-friends (and sometimes even the mayor himself)—swapping sleds, building jumps, fatiguing muscles. If you live in the Fan, you walk to Joe’s Inn, where inevitably you run into other people you know. Joe’s (or whatever your local watering hole is) becomes a place like Cheers—where everybody knows you name. 

The Sabbath

As I reflected on these characteristics of this particular snow day in January 2017 I couldn’t help but notice the ways it echoes with God’s design of the Sabbath. The Sabbath is one day in seven when we (and God’s creation) is meant to rest. To cease. To breathe. The command to keep the Sabbath comes from the 4th of the 10 commandments:

“Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work.” (Exodus 20:8-10)

We like snow days because we’re made to rest.

Additionally, it’s important to recognize that the Sabbath is command given to a community, the people of Israel. Part of the power of God’s instruction to rest comes from its corporate orientation. There would be far less fun in a personal snow day. Snow days are special because everyone slows down, everyone’s schedule is free. 

We like snow days because we’re made to rest together. 

A Weekly Snow Day

The Christian Church still measures time by the God-ordained rhythm of a kind of weekly snow day. On Sundays, followers of Jesus intentionally cease their work, pause their schedules, and meet together as a family to play, to eat, to worship. The reason snow days feels so right (why school children and adults alike root for them) is because they connect us to a reality that is hard-wired into us. We are people made to rest. We are people made to rest together. We are people made to live under the spell of a Sovereign greater than ourselves.